Browns Prepare For Heavyweight Bout Sunday

Pete Smith

Washington's Football Squadron has a lot of issues with their team, which is why they brought in Ron Rivera to be their head coach, but the one thing they have that's really impressive and is already appointment viewing is their defensive line.

Their trio of edge rushers are outstanding with Montez Sweat, Ryan Kerrigan and rookie Chase Young. There is no pair of defensive ends in the NFL as athletic as Young and Sweat.

They both offer size, strength and a simply incredible amount of speed. Sweat, at 260 pounds, ran a 4.41 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, has incredible explosion and more than enough agility to be an All-Pro.

Young never tested, but between videos he's shared and simply what he's shown capable on the field, he's an incredibly gifted athlete in every facet.

This is all before mentioning Ryan Kerrigan, who has quietly put together an outstanding career, tallying 92 sacks in 142 games.

Jack Conklin was dressed for the game against the Cincinnati Bengals, but didn't play. He practiced on Tuesday and at least appears on track to play Sunday. Jedrick Wills played through a shin issue against the Bengals, looking pretty good in that game. The ten days off hopefully allows him to get close to 100 percent, because he's gonna need everything he has in this game.

The Browns have been tested this season, both against the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals. Washington's group may not be quite as polished as what the Ravens and Bengals have to offer, but there's no comparison in terms of the athleticism they will be facing. That rotation is as dangerous as any in the league as well.

Every play is going to be a battle and there is no matchup that's going to be more competitive in this game.

The interior for Washington isn't as good, but it's not exactly an easy matchup. Their best player is Jonathan Allen. (Remember when there was a debate about whether Allen or Myles Garrett was the best defensive lineman in the 2017 NFL Draft? Good times.)

Allen is just a solid defensive tackle at the three-tech that can play the run reasonably well and offers some pass rush ability. 

DaRon Payne is their nose. For the third week in a row, the Browns face off against a hulking nose tackle, but Payne might feel like a break compared to D.J. Reader and Brandon Williams. He's not quite as big as the other two, but he's certainly strong at the point of attack.

The curveball on the interior is Matt Ioannidis. Not a great run defender, but he's been a really effective pass rusher through the first two games of the season. He has 1.5 of the team's 11 sacks so far this season and he's not a great athlete, but he does a great job with his hands.

His first step isn't particularly quick and he doesn't flash a ton of speed from the waist down, but he's great at using his hands to create seams and continuously moving forward into the pocket. With the amount of pressure they can generate on the edge, it can limit where the quarterback can go and create opportunities for Ioannidis to generate pressure and put hits on the quarterback. Those two elements working together can be incredibly problematic for the protection and the quarterback.

Thus far, the Browns offensive line has been great. The Bengals were missing Geno Atkins, who should eventually be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but the rest of that line was good and the Browns shined in that game, even with Chris Hubbard at right tackle.

The Ravens game saw more rookie mistakes from Jedrick Wills against the talented Matthew Judon, but with Brandon Williams, Calais Campbell and a deep group of rotational options, the Browns had their hands full and still did well.

Washington's defensive front is truly unique simply because of the size and athleticism at their disposal on the edge combined with a solid group of interior options that function well in what the defense wants to do. After sacking Carson Wentz eight times in the opener, they sacked Kyler Murray three times in the desert.

This group isn't quite as good as what the Steelers will have, arguably the best front four in the NFL, but if the Browns can turn in another good performance against this unit, it could be a great indication of how they will perform against the Steelers as well as continuing to suggest that Wills will be a very good left tackle.

The problem for Washington is that if their defensive line doesn't have a good day, it could mean a very long afternoon in Cleveland. Their offense is struggling and the rest of their defense is at a huge disadvantage against the skill the Browns bring to the table.

Regardless of who ultimately wins this battle, it's going to be must see TV.

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